Our Kids

Our Kids bookIn his latest book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam deepens and makes even more personal a theme he has worked on for decades: how our increasingly fragmented, isolated lives are endangering the very essence of the American dream, a dream of equality, opportunity, and civic engagement.

In Democracy in America—that remarkably prescient and fertile book about the United States—Alexis de Tocqueville remarked about the American passion for meeting to discuss issues, and linked those discussions to a sense of trust and equality pervading the social fabric.  Those observations became the basis of the term “social capital,” which began to circulate roughly 50 years after de Tocqueville, in 1840, published the second volume of his seminal work on America.  In the 60’s Jane Jacobs, the great writer on American cities, used the term to highlight the importance of “social networks”—more actual, embodied, engaged ones—long before Facebook made it our less embodied thing of the day.  But probably no one popularized the term more than Putnam did with his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, published in 2000 and based on his 1995 essay “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” where he argued that since the 1960’s our society has undergone a collapse of social and associational life, a draining of our “social capital” leading to disastrous consequences for our civic and political life.

On this site I have written much on our growing inequality and division, including our unprecedented growth in income disparity.  (See the links below.)  I have noted Bill Bishop’s book called The Big Sort, which analyses how we are segregating ourselves into increasingly like-minded neighborhoods, extraordinarily lacking in diversity of persons and ideas.  My son Rick Guzman’s provocative monograph An Argument for a Return to Plessy vs. Ferguson details immense disparities in educational resources.

Robert Putnam

Robert Putnam

Robert Putnam’s Our Kids, published in 2016, details the immense and growing disparity in opportunity.  And opportunity is perhaps at the very heart of the American dream, a thing even more basic than equality and civic engagement, the thing these actually exist to serve.  He does so by focusing on his hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio, specifically in 1959, just before America’s social capital began to collapse.

“No single town or city could possibly represent all of America, and Port Clinton in the 1950s was hardly paradise,” he writes, admitting that, “As in the rest of America at the time, minorities …suffered serious discrimination and women were frequently marginalized.”  “Few of us,” he says, “would want to return there without major reforms. But social class was not a major constraint on opportunity.”  It’s radically different today.  “When our gaze shifts to Port Clinton in the twenty-first century…the opportunities facing rich kids and poor kids today…are radically disparate. Port Clinton today is a place of stark class divisions, where (according to school officials) wealthy kids park BMW convertibles in the high school lot next to decrepit junkers that homeless classmates drive away each night to live.”

In the New York Times Book Review, Jason DeParle writes, “Robert D. Putnam is technically a Harvard social scientist, but a better description might be poet laureate of civil society.”  That civility, which Putnam has celebrated and pined over in so many essays and books is probably based fundamentally on a hunger for opportunity, for that chance to be equal so we can have time and reason for civic engagement.  Though finally somewhat hopeful, as a poet laureate of civil society is prone to be, we hope that Our Kids isn’t a chronicle of the death of this opportunity.

For More:
Watch a Chicago Tonight Interview with Putnam, where you can also read an excerpt from the book.

Go to Rick Guzman’s monograph An Argument for a Return to Plessy vs. Ferguson, and to my “A Return to Plessy vs. Ferguson?” where I give some historical background on the seminal Supreme Court case.

Go to a short video on Emmanuel House featuring Stephen Caliendo, who references Putnam’s idea of “social capital.”  Learn more about Emmanuel House, co-founded by Rick Guzman.  It has helped dozens of families move out of poverty, and in 2016 was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world.

Go to “Not As Divided As We Seem?” for more on Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort, among other things, and to “Graphic Inequality,” which contains stunning visual representations of America’s enormous and growing wealth disparity.

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Endorsements for Rick Guzman

Guz4AuroraVideoHere are a few comments from people endorsing RICK GUZMAN for mayor of Aurora, Illinois.  Start with a VIDEO by clicking on the picture to the left. Go to endorsements from Mayor Tom Weisner and Kane County Board Chair Chris Lauzen, to the Guzman for Aurora website, and to the full text of the Daily Herald endorsement, which is prefaced by an announcement that Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Bill Foster, and Labor has also endorsed his candidacy.  Then consider the following, just a small sampling of comments from the many who believe that Rick Guzman is by far the best choice for mayor.  The overwhelming majority of his support and money raised has come locally, from people working at home every day to keep Aurora on the upward path it started 12 years ago under mayor Tom Weisner, a great Guzman supporter.

From the VIDEO referenced above, I want to highlight first the words of LINDA COLE: “If the race for mayor was a job interview, and we were hiring the most prepared, qualified candidate with the most relevant—and remember that word ‘relevant’—experience, that would be Rick Guzman hands down.”  Here’s more:

Dot 1GREG THOMAS (former Aurora Police Chief):  ”I believe Rick is the right choice for Mayor…He is a great innovator and collaborator.  I appreciate his ability to think broadly and his capability to bring people together.  I believe Rick is the right person to continue to grow and improve the City of Aurora.”

Dot 1SCOTT VORIS (President of Kelmscott Communications):  ”Rick’s not political.  Rick is consistent and he’s knowledgeable.  And Rick has a deep understanding of how our city government actually functions…Rick’s not a talker, he’s a doer—and that’s why the business community is going to be behind him.”

Dot 1BILL POWELL (former Aurora Police Chief): “I am convinced that Rick Guzman has the necessary qualities to become the next leader of the City of Aurora.  For Aurora to realize its potential, Aurora needs a visionary.  I believe that is Rick Guzman.”

Dot 1RACHEL OSSYRA (Naperville Township Supervisor):  ”Rick has the skills and Rick has the personality to bring people together.  Where others see a problem, Rick Guzman sees an opportunity.  Rick Guzman will encourage economic growth through smart management, certainly, but also through collaboration.”  (See her endorsement VIDEO Here.)

Dot 1GONZALO ARROYO (Executive Director (ret.) of Family Focus, Aurora):  ”Time and time again, I have seen Rick be a bridge-builder—bringing people together and creating partnerships to accomplish big things in the City of Aurora.  Rick is THE one who can tackle the big issues that our community continues to face.”

Dot 1TOM CAVENAGH (Professor of Law, Business, and Conflict Resolution—North Central College):  ”He was a splendid student, and is now, as he was then, a man of principle and conviction.  Any city would be blessed to have him as its leader.”

Dot 1PETER GROMETER (former Chief Judge):  ”We are on the cusp of something really exciting.  All we need is a leader with the conviction and intelligence to lead us forward.  I think we have that in Rick Guzman.  He’s got the skills of a small businessman and the acumen of an attorney.  He’s got the intelligence, and he’s got the drive.”

Dot 1JOHN LEHMAN (former Aurora Fire Chief):  ”Having worked with Rick over the last several years, he has proven to be a collaborator and someone who has demonstrated his ability to lead.  The wide range of experiences Rick has with public service and municipal government make him the best mayoral candidate for the City of Aurora.”

Others endorsing Rick Guzman include: Frank Navarro, Tim Reuland, Mike Drews, Steven McCormick, Ingrid Roney, Hector Ochoa, Krishna Bansal, Jerry Knudtson, Brian Konen, Yanet Garcia…and many more.

 Go to the Lead Post on this site about the Guzman for Aurora campaign.

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Guzman for Aurora: Leverage and Opportunity

guzman-for-auroraBelow are links to articles and videos on this site about Rick Guzman and Guzman for Aurora, the organization promoting his run for mayor of Aurora, Illinois, the state’s second largest city.  A biographical sketch also appears below.

But before the links and bio, some words from his campaign website, words which capture my eldest son so well, I’ll just add the following for now.  In our family we’ve often laughed at Rick for being so cheap, and marveled at how he’s able to find the best deals for everything…always! From tooth paste to mortgages he’s always turning a dime into a dollar. In an executive position, that translates into being able to do more with less, one of the big themes on the campaign website.  Another of Rick’s favorite words is “leverage.”  He’s always leveraging this to get that, making the most of every opportunity, so that even if the opportunity is small, many small ones eventually start adding up to something big, even huge.  For example, go to the first link below to find out how he got a 70 to 1 return on investment for Aurora city funds.  But while he’s “cheap” with money, he’s expansive with people.  He values every person’s life and human potential.  This has made him a brilliant bridge-builder and collaborator who turns the cliche “Bringing Us Together” into powerful realities.  Professor Tom Cavenagh, one of his college mentors, has said, “He was a splendid student, and is now, as he was then, a man of principle and conviction. Any city would be blessed to have him as its leader.”

Guz4Aurora-MORE2The Guzman for Aurora website says, in part:  ”Rick Guzman’s campaign for Mayor of Aurora is about what happens when the limited resource of local government meets the unlimited potential of community…It’s about recognizing that every resident is a resource and every voice is valuable.  We’re voting for more progress and more participation. We’re voting to make Aurora more itself.

WHY RICK?   Doing more—with less. That’s been his focus for 15 years of executive leadership.  As Assistant Chief of Staff to Mayor Tom Weisner since 2011, Rick’s creative solutions have been behind many of the city’s most successful campaigns and development initiatives.  He’s a big-picture thinker who specializes in listening well, understanding deeply—and then finding creative ways to leverage little opportunities to create big results.  Rick’s not a legislator; he’s an executive.  And his specialty isn’t talk.  It’s action.”

  Go to Endorsements for Rick Guzman.

 Go to “How to Turn 500k into 35mil” to learn how Rick Guzman leveraged opportunities to turn $500,000 into a $35,000,000 development commitment.  And read more about Arts and Economic Development.

 Go to “If Mayors Ruled the World” for the importance of executive vs. legislative leadership, a major theme on the campaign website and campaign literature.

  PARADES!  Go to a highlight video from Aurora’s Memorial Day Parade, where Guzman for Aurora was the entire parade’s largest contingent, and to videos of the July 4th Parade (featuring the Rick Guzman cardboard cutout!), and Guzman for Aurora in the Fiestas Patrias Parade.


About Rick Guzman: Upon graduating from North Central College in 1999, Rick Guzman became a Mikva Fellow, then special advisor to the Governor of Illinois on issues of housing and anti-hate.  He also helped run the committee which led to Illinois’ historic moratorium on the death penalty, and later helped create projects such as Sweet Beginnings, designed to help released prisoners re-enter society and avoid re-arrest.  In memory of his brother Bryan Emmanuel (1985-2006), he and his wife Desiree founded Emmanuel House, an organization helping refugees and the working poor lift themselves out of poverty.  He directed Community Christian Church’s Lighthouse Project, an effort to develop the East Aurora community, and then became assistant chief of staff to Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, specializing in community development.  In this role he has had tremendous impact on the city—developing stronger relationships with community groups, pursuing policies to strengthen both neighborhoods and the downtown, and bringing in over $70,000,000 in development money in just five years.  He was given the Learners to Leaders award by his high school alma mater, and, upon graduation from Northern Illinois’ law school, the Thurgood Marshall Award, given to the student who “best epitomizes Justice Marshall’s deep understanding and commitment to equal justice under law, his dedication to the rule of law in a just society, and his use of the law as an instrument of social change.”  His law school monograph “An Argument for a Return to Plessy vs. Ferguson” was both a work of scholarship and a radical re-visioning of how to make Illinois schools more equal.  In 2016 Emmanuel House was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world.  In the same year Guzman also announced his candidacy for mayor of Aurora.

♦♦♦  Return to the Lead Post on this site for the Guzman for Aurora campaign.

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